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Bishops to give evidence in Northern Ireland abortion case

12 September 2001

Bishops to give evidence in Northern Ireland abortion case Westminster, 12 September 2001--The judge considering whether the Northern Ireland health department should issue guidance on the availability of abortion services is to look at evidence from the Irish Catholic bishops. He will decide in four weeks' time whether also to consider evidence from the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC). The judicial review is taking place at the request of the Family Planning Association (FPA). If the review goes the FPA's way, it could lead to the availability of abortion effectively on demand in Northern Ireland. John Smeaton, SPUC national director, said: "We are pleased that the judge will look at the bishops' evidence and shall be happy to supply our own if so requested. "The aim of the FPA's action is to liberalise abortion law in Northern Ireland. The FPA is part of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, which is committed to introducing abortion on demand throughout the world. By claiming that Northern Ireland's abortion law is in need of clarification, the FPA is employing the same tactic used by pro-abortionists in Britain and elsewhere. However, we absolutely reject their claim. Abortion law is perfectly clear in Northern Ireland, and the vast majority of doctors know exactly what the situation is. The tactic is a cynical ploy on the part of the FPA which must be seen for what it is. "The large majority of Northern Ireland's people, both unionist and nationalist, oppose the liberalisation of abortion laws. Pressure to liberalise abortion laws has been consistently resisted by Northern Ireland's elected representatives. On 29 February 1984, the Northern Ireland Assembly voted by 20 to 1 against the introduction of the Abortion Act or any like legislation to Northern Ireland. On 20 June last year the new Northern Ireland Assembly adopted a motion reiterating the stance of the previous assembly with regard to abortion on demand and the extension of the Abortion Act 1967. The Reverend Ian Paisley has said: 'The overwhelming opposition (to abortion) is amazing, because it stretches from the Unionist parties to the nationalist SDLP...'. "Dr Marjorie Mowlam, former secretary of state, expressed regret that the Abortion Act had not been extended to Northern Ireland and said: 'Progress is hampered by lack of support across the parties in Northern Ireland for change in this area ... it's called democracy.' (Belfast Telegraph, 13 October 1999). "The overwhelming majority of the people of Northern Ireland would support the recommendation made by SPUC for the following draft clause in a Northern Ireland Bill of Rights: 'Every child by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection before as well as after birth.

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